UNISON is currently balloting its members who work in higher education for strike action on the proposed pay deal for 2012-13.
This is a national ballot across the Higher Education sector and not a local dispute.
UNISON in conjunction with sister Unions have conducted negotiations to win fair pay and a living wage for all workers in the HE sector.
Currently the employers has offered a pay increase of 1% with no guarantee of a living wage for the lowest paid worker.
This vote indicates a change in position for the Branch that has traditionally voted to accept the 0.5% pay offer (2009) 0.4% (2010) and last year a £150 (2012) across the board "pay rise". With inflation at 3% and living costs having increased by 12% staff in HE have effectively taken a 10% pay cut in real terms over the last few years.
This presents significant problems for the sector in terms of retention and recruitment but also has a significant impact on the lowest paid members of staff. A worker on pay point 16 has lost the equivalent of £1600 a year, meaning real hardship for many.
UNISON has found that the HE sector has healthy surpluses in many areas, yet our pay offers continue to be low, whilst Vice Chancellors, senior managers and consultants continue to reap the rewards of high pay. It is a question of fairness and distribution of the funds; not whether a pay increase can be afforded.
The vote to reject the Pay Offer locally as well as nationally is in part of the failure of the governments austerity agenda and a response to theTUC and national UNISON commitment led by David Prentice to "smash the pay freeze".
We have seen nationally that industrial action, though a last resort, can achieve concessions and improved offers from the employers and government. This was seen in the national LGPS Pensions deal. Whatever individuals may feel about the merits of pension deal, it is a significant improvement from the deal that the government originally intended to impose. Choosing to resist the changes to the pensions scheme and negotiating a better deal is down to the anger shown by union members and the industrial action taken in November 2011.
Locally at Middlesex University successfully organised Industrial action has strengthened the Branch in negotiations, and the Branch has made gains in areas such as Contribution Points, negotiated protections and prevented the outsourcing of the University maintenance department. Industrial action presents the Branch with the opportunity to build solidarity and organise in the workplace as well as win real gains for its members.
Arguments for industrial action over pay are available here. Recent events, not least pensions, have shown that Industrial action as part of a wider concerted campaign can bring concessions that benefit ordinary members.
Stand with UNISON on this issue demand fair pay for all staff within Higher Education. Vote to reject the pay deal.